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Year : 2023  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Dr. John S. Carman

Department of Continuing Medical Education, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission09-Nov-2022
Date of Acceptance15-Nov-2022
Date of Web Publication17-Jan-2023

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Reena George
Christian Medical College, Vellore - 632 002, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmi.cmi_121_22

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How to cite this article:
George R. Dr. John S. Carman. Curr Med Issues 2023;21:1-2

How to cite this URL:
George R. Dr. John S. Carman. Curr Med Issues [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 6];21:1-2. Available from: https://www.cmijournal.org/text.asp?2023/21/1/1/367858

Since the last issue of the journal was published, several departments have moved to the new Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore, Ranipet Campus. A residential community has formed, chapel services have begun and a new campus school has been dedicated: the John Carman School.

The first four Directors/Principals of CMC, Drs Scudder, Findlay, Cochrane, and Lazarus, are remembered in the names of the four “student houses” of the medical college. The legacy of their successor, Dr. John Carman is less well known.

John Spencer Carman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 16, 1902. That year also saw the birth of the mission hospitals in Vellore and Hanumakonda – the institutions where John Carman would serve for a professional lifetime.

After graduating from Cornell Medical School in New York, John married Naomi Hull in 1928. The couple came to India as missionaries of the Baptist church serving for several years in the mission hospital at Hanumakonda near Warangal. The Baptist church had played a key role in the establishment of the women's medical school at Vellore and Dr. John Carman was asked to represent the denomination in the school's governing council.

The Vellore medical school faced an existential crisis in 1938 when the Madras Presidency abolished the diploma-level course in medicine. While most schools offering the diploma closed down, Vellore resolved to upgrade itself to MBBS standards – a transition that would require a major increase in infrastructure, patient numbers, and faculty. Madras university required MBBS teachers to have British-recognized postgraduate qualifications and university teaching experience. The Vellore medical school had only five medical faculty. None met these criteria.

Aware of this need, during his furlough, Dr. Carman joined a surgical residency. In his forties, he took and passed the Canadian fellowship examinations before returning to India in the final years of the Second World War.

Meanwhile, Vellore had not admitted new medical students between 1938 and 1942. The university inspection committee of 1941 finally granted permission for the preclinical years of the MBBS course and in 1942, under Dr. Jessie Findlay's principalship, the institution was able to take its first batch of MBBS students. The students were to be posted in Madras during their clinical years. Dr. Findlay, aware that she herself did not have the credentials to be a Professor of Surgery for the MBBS course, moved to serve the rest of her tenure in a mission hospital, handing over leadership to the British leprosy specialist, Dr. Robert Cochrane.

Between 1945 and 1948, with Dr. Cochrane at the helm, provisional recognition was obtained for the clinical years of the course, coeducation began, male patients were admitted and faculty were sought from across the country to staff the teaching departments. Dr. John Carman was invited to join CMC as Associate Professor of Surgery.

The institution then had only two operation theaters, no blood bank, and no specialist anesthetist. Dr. Carman upgraded and adapted surgical protocols, built additional theaters, planned the curriculum for the new MBBS course, and served as the medical superintendent. Since the college and hospital did not have accommodation for married faculty, the Carmans and the Brands shared a rented house in Virudhampet. The Carman children were sent to a residential school in Kodaikanal (It would be many years before Vellore would have its Ida Scudder School for staff children – close to the Carmans' first residence in Vellore town).

In 1954, Dr. John Carman succeeded Dr. Hilda Lazarus as Director. His vision was to provide an education that was linked with experience in secondary care hospitals and to develop a hospital staffed and equipped to offer the best clinical services in the country in a manner that was both equitable and sustainable. Alumni were handpicked and sent to the best centers in the world to train and set up new specialties. Houses were built on campus for faculty and residents. Specialties such as neurosurgery, thoracic surgery, urology, and cardiology began to train postgraduates who set up departments in different parts of India. In parallel with these developments, pioneering work was encouraged and funded in underserved areas such as mental health, rehabilitation, and community medicine. These specialties, in turn, made innovative and far-reaching contributions to patient care, education, outreach, and research.

Mrs. Naomi Carman served in several critical areas of institutional need. Over a 25-year period, she laid the foundation for the college and hospital libraries, the medical records department, and the treasurer's office, in each instance handing over charge to trained Indian colleagues. For several years before retirement, she served as the administrative assistant to the director.

Between 1954 and 1967, during the Carman directorship, inpatient beds increased from 500 to 1200, the operation theater complex and outpatient department block were built and the foundation for the OPQ blocks was laid. To provide accommodation for staff, funds were raised to build the A, B, C, and D grade houses as well the Men Interns' Quarters, the Hospital Annexe, and the Student Nurses' Hostel. Educational facilities expanded with the building of the College of Nursing, Dodd Memorial Library and the Norman Auditorium.

Thus, the Carman era laid a lasting foundation for the training and retention of staff for the tertiary care hospital. When the Carmans retired from Vellore, it was with reluctance that they agreed for their name to be written – in small letters – on the administrative block of the college campus. No major building in the main hospital bears the Carman name.

It is fitting that in the “John Carman School” on CMC's quaternary care campus there will a living tribute to the director who transformed a newly recognized MBBS college in a small parochial town into the premier teaching hospital of independent India.


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